Suit: Football Player Beaten by Teammates for Helping Rape Victim – WLTX.com
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University of Tennessee football players confronted and assaulted wide receiver Drae Bowles as retribution for helping a woman who said she wasraped by then-Volunteer players A.J. Johnson andMike Williams, according to a federal lawsuit filed in Nashville on Tuesday.
Bowles took the woman to a hospital on the night of the alleged rape in November 2014 and supported her decision to report the incident to authorities, according to the lawsuit.
While the woman, a student-athlete, was meeting with executive senior associate athletics director Jon Gilbert, senior associate athletics director Mike Ward and her coach, she received a message from her roommate “who was witnessing at that moment several football players jumping” Bowles, the lawsuit says. The woman informed the athletics officials of the incident and was told they would “look into it,” according to the suit. The lawsuit says “athletic coaches were present during that altercation.”
Days later, the woman learned that Bowles was assaulted a second time at the team facility by the same players, the lawsuit says. She reported the second assault to university administrators as well.
When asked about the alleged assaults on Bowles, the school’s general counsel Bill Ramsey said, “The university has certain rules we have to play by, and we can’t really talk about particular students at all.”
The plaintiff along with five other unnamed women sued the university on Tuesday. Bowles transferred to UT-Chattanooga several months after he was victimized by his teammates, the lawsuit says.
The players involved were not named as defendants in the federal lawsuit.
But, the lawsuit says, Williams told police in November 2014 that then-Tennessee defensive back Geraldo Orta had “a hit” out on Bowles.
According to the lawsuit, Orta, a Valdosta, Ga., native, told University of Tennessee police he felt “Bowles betrayed the team and that where (Orta) came from, people got shot for doing what Bowles did.”
Thursday afternoon, Orta responded to The Tennessean’s request for comment in a Facebook message. He denied the allegation that he put a hit on Bowles.
“I’ve never put a hit on someone in my life!” Orta wrote. “And that is a fact. People will lie just to save themselves.
“I can say back in college I wasn’t the best of men and my environment on how I grew up can show that,” he continued in the Facebook message. “Being in a boys’ home most of my life can take a toll on you, but I don’t let that dictate who I am. I’m a better man looking to be success in life and as a person.”
The Jane Doe plaintiff claimed the incidents involving Bowles contributed to a culture that intimidated victims of sexual assault by football players. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit sued Tennessee for Title IX violations, claiming the university created a culture that leads to sexual assaults and then uses a administrative hearing process that is biased in favor of football players.
Bowles, a junior, could not be reached for comment through email, phone and the UT-Chattanooga athletics department.
Orta told police in an interview conducted during an investigation into the sexual assault claims against Johnson and Williams that he approached Bowles in Smokey’s Café, the athletics dining facility. Orta admitted getting “in (Bowles’) face” and saying “some threatening things,” according to interviews with police cited in the lawsuit.
Orta also told police that then-Tennessee star Curt Maggitt confronted Bowles in the team locker room “before the team was instructed by head coach Butch Jones not to talk to him and before Bowles was given time away from the team,” the suit says.
In interviews with police, Maggit said he confronted Bowles and said he purchased alcohol for the party at which the Jane Doe plaintiff was allegedly assaulted, the lawsuit says. Neither Orta nor Maggitt were disciplined, according to the lawsuit.
Williams and Johnson were charged with two counts each of aggravated rape and are awaiting separate trials. Both have pleaded not guilty. Williams’ trial is set for June 27 and Johnson’s is set for July 18.